Magi’s Menagerie

Magi and Animals, Lords and Livestock, Kings and a… donkey. What do these all have in common? They were all working titles for our fabulous upcoming concert - ‘Magi’s Menagerie’.

Though many of our Christmas traditions refer to the three Kings and animals, I’ve always been fascinated with the variety of Christmas music on this subject, and the incredible diversity that different cultures offer to this Christmas narrative. Though the Bible only mentions ‘wise men from the East’, there is no reference to how many there were, or whether they were Kings, Lords or just really wise guys. Our tradition of ‘three’ comes from the gifts that were presented - Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.

Many traditions offer names to the three, most commonly being Melchior, Caspar, and Balthasar - Persian, Indian and Babylonian scholars. Other traditions state they were Kings of Arabia and Persia, or Zoroastrian Magi, or even that there could have been more than a dozen! We just don’t really know!

And then there are the animals! We commonly see donkeys and sheep in our manger scenes, occasionally an oxen, and some camels that the ‘wise men from the east’ may have arrived on. In some traditions, they may even include an elephant at the manger scene!

The animals have become such an important part of the manger scene, to the point that they have become part of choral text tradition. The common choral text ‘O Magnum Mysterium’ refers to the ‘great mystery… that animals should see the new-born Lord’. Morton Lauridsen’s setting of this text is one of the wonderful pieces we’ll be performing at our upcoming concerts on Dec 15 and 16.

Though our concert planning began with pieces about the kings and animals, we soon were overwhelmed by the variety of beautiful choral pieces from around the world. Come hear our ‘hidden gems’ with pieces from the UK, Norway, the Ukraine, and much more! Come hear the ‘Magi’s Menagerie - Hidden Christmas Gems from around the World’ and celebrate the season with us!